KUALA LUMPUR - Bilateral relations between Malaysia and China have enjoyed a golden period in the first four decades and the next 40 years will see a "diamond era", with the two countries expecting to discuss a reciprocal visa policy.
Currently, the Partial Visa Abolition (PVA) Agreement enables holders of diplomatic passport holders or official/services passports of both sides to enter and stay in both countries for the purpose of official visits, vacation or visiting of relatives for 30 days without visa requirement.
This was finalised and signed in 2009.
Malaysia is currently exploring the mechanism to expand the scope of the PVA to include all passport holders, said Malaysian Foreign Minister Anifah Aman in an interview with The Star newspaper.
This comes as Malaysia and China are enjoying strong bilateral ties.
In an interview with The Star, China's Ambassador to Malaysia Huang Huikang said: "Our bilateral ties have enjoyed a golden era in the first 40 years. The next 40 years will see a diamond era."
Malaysia and China established diplomatic relations in 1974.
Dr Huang said that China-Malaysia relations have developed speedily in all aspects to become more matured and stable.
"Strong progress has been made in the development of infrastructure, major projects, energy, agriculture, finance, defence and security," he said. "We also see a deepening in cultural exchanges, as well as education and medical activities."
Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Malaysia in 2013 and Premier Li Keqiang visited in 2015, said Dr Huang. Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak has visited China seven times.
In a separate interview with The Star, Datuk Seri Anifah said the strength of the relations is a direct result of the "long-standing commitment of successive leadership" in Malaysia and China.
"The increased diplomatic exchanges have resulted in a robust exchange of visits between both countries, including at the highest level. This is a trend that is expected to continue in the future," he said.
There were 64 exchanges of visits recorded in 2016 at the level of Minister and Deputy Minister between Malaysia and China, Mr Anifah said.
Besides the PVA, Malaysia has also implemented the e-visa and eNTRI initiatives in 2015. Through these initiatives, the country received an increasing number of tourists from China, said Mr Anifah in The Star interview. In 2016, Malaysia received 2.1 million tourists, an increase of 26.7 per cent compared to the number of tourists recorded in 2015.
Dr Huang said that China is the largest non-Asean source of tourists for Malsyais, with arrivals expected to hit three million this year. "This means Malaysia will get foreign exchange revenue of RM15billion (S$5 billion) from Chinese tourists," he said.
China is also Malaysia's biggest trading partner for the eighth consecutive year, its largest source of foreign direct investment, and the largest contractor in the construction sector, said Dr Huang in The Star interview.
He also noted that cooperation in major projects is flourishing, such as the China-Malaysia Qinzhou Industrial Park, the Malaysia-China Kuantan Industrial Park, the Malacca Coastal Industrial Park, the East Coast Rail Link, the Sabah Gas Pipeline, the North-South oil products pipeline, as well as investments from Chinese companies Alibaba and Geely.
Additionally, the China Construction Bank issued the first global renminbi bond in Malaysia in 2015, and Xiamen University Malaysia, the first offshore campus of China's state-owned university, opened its doors in 2016, Dr Huang said.
Going forward, Mr Anifah said that he has "every faith that Malaysia's diplomatic ties with China will only continue to grow", through regular communications and exchange of visits between the leaders, government and party officials, as well as businesses from both sides.
"Bilateral relations between Malaysia and China have progressed substantially in the last 43 years," the Minister said. "The close relations between Malaysia and China must be based on mutual respect, trust and genuine friendship.